How to Take Notes in College

Published by Hope Nelson 1 month ago on Mon, Mar 18, 2024 12:40 PM

Notes – whether you love them or hate them, they’re an integral part of the college experience. Some students prefer to take notes on their computer, while others prefer handwritten ones. Although nearly as many note-taking strategies exist as there are college students who use them, a few simple tips can elevate your unique style to a new level of efficacy.  

How to take notes in class 

While it can be tempting to set up your computer in class and type whatever is on the screen, this certainly isn’t the most productive note-taking method. Instead, keep your brain engaged and put notes in your own words, even if it’s just a rephrasing of what you see on the slideshow. Thinking through what you are reading will help you remember what you learned after class, and more importantly, when studying for the test.  

In addition, write down what your professor says that’s not on the slides. If you hear a detail that you judge to be important, make note of it, even if it’s not written out at the front of class. Chances are, if he or she emphasizes a certain topic, it will be on the test or included in required knowledge for an upcoming project. And don’t stress if you can’t get everything down on paper – just ask your professor after class to clarify a point or post a slideshow on Blackboard. It’s more than likely that he or she will be more than willing to help you out.  

How to organize notes after class 

Getting back from class, shoving your notebooks in your desk drawer and forgetting about them until the next time your class rolls around can be tempting. However, learning material from in-class notes takes work outside of class time as well. Some students like to organize and rewrite their notes after class is over, and others prefer to create a summary to which they can refer when studying. What’s most important, however, is that you engage with the material your professor covered in between class sessions instead of relegating it to the back of your mind for later retrieval.  

How to make your notes “study-able”  

Being able to take notes is a fantastic skill to have, but if you can’t read your notes or understand them when you return to them after class, then your work will end up going to waste. If you find yourself hastily scribbling down whatever you need to in class, turn these scribbles into something neater as soon as possible – preferably right after class.  

If your information seems disorganized, make headings and sort what you have into columns. If your handwriting is especially messy, create a Word document or a Google Doc on your computer and type out what you wrote down, sorting it as you go. However you prefer to sort your information, take care of this task as soon as possible. Your future self who is studying for an upcoming test will thank you! 

How to take notes from a textbook 

In many classes, textbooks act as supplements for in-class instruction. Additionally, professors may include material covered in the textbook on tests or require you to use them as a resource for projects and papers. In either case, taking “book notes” can serve as an indispensable tool for developing a complete understanding of course material.  

The best time to take textbook notes is before your professor covers the material in class. That way, you will go in with an understanding of general topics and an idea of what you might not know or understand. Plus, you can spend as much time as you need on book notes, making creative headings and deliberating about the chapter’s most important points without having to keep up with a professor, who may move on from a topic before you’re ready.  

Taking notes can be monotonous or annoying for some students, but the rewards gained when you know how to take effective notes are plentiful. From before-class textbook notes to in-class scribbles and subsequent organization, the note-taking process has many facets, none of which are difficult. If you want to try revamping your note-taking skills, take the initiative and wait no longer! 

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